News Cast for August 3rd:

County costs becoming clear

Okeechobee County Commissioners set their tentative millage at 8 mills, identical to this year.

They will see more funding due to an increase in the tax base.

The garbage bill could go up $60 dollars, EMS assessment over $41 dollars and the Fire assessment by nearly $7.

Residential taxes can only go up a maximum three percent under Florida law.

County Fire Rescue is asking for 12 new firemen in the next five years along with $13.3 million in capital improvements, including a new fire station.

Fire rescue said there have been increases in EMS calls in the past few years.

Commissioner Brad Goodbread had some concerns about the rate hike being based on statistics.

“My statistics professor told me the three biggest liars are liars, dam liars and statistics.”

Two public hearings on the county spending plan are scheduled in September.

The annual python challenge begins in the Everglades on Friday.

There have been more and more pythons harvested but the problem appears to be still growing.

Mike Kirkland with the South Florida Water Management District heads up the python eradication program.

He said they have no clue about how many are in the Everglades.

“Just five years is not a lot of time to make any conclusions on whether the population is dropping.”

The district said 2,500 pythons were harvested in 2020, 2,400 in 2021, and close to 1,900 in 2022.

The district pays 50 contractors to constantly hunt pythons and remove them.

They note there has been a severe decline in small mammals and impacts on wading birds in the Everglades due to pythons.

Glades County Commissioners heard a presentation on impact fees for new development from the Central Florida Regional Planning Council.

They have discussed reinstituting the fees.  The school board also supports fees for new schools.

Commissioner Donna Storter Long said Glades County has some problems to address.

“We have limited businesses.  As friendly and small as we are, we still have higher education needs.  The high energy cost is one of the biggest or these biggest deterrents in our county.  The assets are great but they are not in any way mitigating the problem”

They have talked about finding administrative offices for the sheriff but a new facility like that could not be paid for by impact fees.

Highlands County Sheriff Paul Blackman asking for a near $38 million budget.  He’d like to have a new traffic unit.

The county budget there proposed to rise by 16 percent.

Commissioners have suggested budget cuts.

Finance Director David Nitz said staff has been sharpening their pencils and found $1.5 million in cuts.

The constitutional officers proposed budget hikes of 11 percent.

By Taylor